LETTER: Bill 23 shreds PEC’s ability to deliver on roads, services

Dear Jason, I didn’t see any coverage of our out-going Council’s unanimous vote on Bill 23 in last week’s Picton Gazette... a weekly newspaper that many of us recall as The County’s unofficial publication of record.

For the benefit of your readers, Council was exercising good governance and heeding the serious cautions circulated to all Queen’s Park MPPs by the Association of Municipalities (AMO), that while we all acknowledge increased housing supply and improved housing affordability are pressing municipal priorities, this can only be achieved in actual partnership with municipalities themselves. Indeed, AMO makes the blunt statement that NO consultations have occurred with Ontario municipalities, let alone with Prince Edward County.

For example, as Bill 23 sits now, it will transfer $ billions of growth costs from private sector developers to Ontario municipal property taxpayers… not to mention the implications for homeowners and communities of undermining Ontario’s environmental protections. The County and Council have a policy of growth paying for growth… Bill 23 shreds that premise and attacks our financial capacity to deliver on services, roads and vital infrastructure.

What services would fans of an unamended Bill 23 like our municipality to cut in order to subsidize the province and private developers? Or as the Ontario Farmland Trust and Ontario Federation of Agriculture remarked on Bill 23, can we afford even more lost farmland needed to feed the people actually living in those houses? Moreover, Bill 23 makes no mention of Queen’s Park itself stepping up financially to create affordable housing. And, factually, the legislation offers NO likelihood of any improved housing affordability.

What is clear in Bill 23, as drafted and assessed by AMO, is that it benefits “private developer interests at the expenses of public interests – at the expense of property taxpayers and Ontario’s natural environment”. Disturbingly, The Toronto Star and The Narwal asserted “six developers bought Greenbelt land after Ford came to power. Now they stand to profit… over half the parcels of land set to lose long-standing Ontario Greenbelt protections include properties purchased since the Progressive Conservatives won the 2018 election”.

The Globe & Mail, the very farthest thing from a socialist tabloid, said of Bill 23: “.. it feels more like an excuse to allow developers to make a quick score, allowing them to create new suburbs on land that was set aside in part to limit suburban sprawl… the problem in Ontario is not a shortage of land; the problem is that much urban land… is zoned exclusively for low-rise, single family homes – the least dense form of housing… Mr. Ford prefers to act like it’s still the 1950s”.

Lastly, Council works hard at transparency and it was totally improper for the province to pursue Bill 23 when Councils are no longer in session, old Councils are disempowered, and newly-elected Councils haven’t even been sworn in! Urgent and bold action is definitely required for our housing supply and affordability.

But let’s be clear. The Ontario government shifting the financial burden of growth-related infrastructure onto existing municipal taxpayers in the hope of more (likely unattainable) white-picket-fence single family homes is very problematic for all PEC residents… including your Picton Gazette readers.

Sincerely,

Bill Roberts Councillor – Sophiasburgh PEC